What does a News Photographer do?

Ken Black

A news photographer is a professional who accompanies reporters on assignments in order to take photos or videos related to the story. The photographer may also go out on his or her own for special projects that do not require the reporter to be there at the same time. Some even work exclusively as freelancers. Once the photos are taken, the photographer is responsible for processing them and making them ready to print. News photographers must also adhere to strict ethical standards.

News photographers often work at newspapers.
News photographers often work at newspapers.

In most cases, the term news photographer refers to a still camera operator, but it can also refer to a television news photographer shooting video. Though the video operator will have a great deal more work shown than the still photographer, both fulfill the same job responsibilities. They both are there to tell a story with the most compelling pictures possible, whether or not those pictures are moving.

News photographers take pictures of events as they unfold.
News photographers take pictures of events as they unfold.

The main job of a still news photographer involves getting the correct photo to go along with a story. Many times, the news photographs chosen by editors may not be the best photos from an artistic standpoint. Rather, they are the images that best tell the story in picture form. While a news photographer should push for the image they believe is the best, most compelling one to complement a story, the ultimate choice is up to the editor.

In some cases, a news photographer will be given great latitude in the product they bring back. In other cases, the editor may put certain demands on a photograph. Some of those demands include: the orientation of the photograph, the people in the photograph, the setting, or even the lighting. The editor does this not to be picky, but to make the photograph fit in with an overall page design, or with the specific focus of the article it will accompany.

In the past, a news photographer was responsible for developing his or her own images, usually in a dark room. Therefore, technical knowledge of the developing process was required. Currently, the vast majority of newspapers use digital photography. This not only frees up the time of the photographer for more work, but also means they can take a larger number of photos, since they are not limited by the cost of film. By the same token, reporters have in some cases replaced the traditional news photographer at many smaller papers, though this often results in lesser quality photos.

Currently, processing a photograph will usually involve some sort of photo editing software. The photographer usually uses this software not to improve the photo, but simply to properly format it for printing in the newspaper. This may include adjusting the light and contrast, as well as making slight adjustments to the color. Cropping may also take place at this stage. There are certain ethical rules that most photographers follow when going through the editing process, such as not removing objects, or adding objects to the photo, no matter how minor.

Processing a photograph will usually involve some kind of photo editing software.
Processing a photograph will usually involve some kind of photo editing software.

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Discussion Comments


News photographers are busy people. They may photograph a wreck, a prisoner transfer, a food assignment and a basketball game, all in one day. They're also on the lookout for feature photos all the time.

These men and women are usually dedicated to their jobs. One photographer I know was taking pictures of storm damage during a tornado outbreak and ended up running for his life. He was about 45 seconds ahead of an EF-5 twister that had a funnel over a mile wide. The thing crossed the highway behind him. A woman three cars back was killed in the storm. He got the photo, but said he wasn't daring a tornado again. But they do it all the time. And that's for a small newspaper. Photographers who are embedded with the troops in war zones put their lives on the line every day.

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